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Pizza Express has been bringing the delight of authentic Italian cuisine to the UK since 1965. Founder Peter Boizot was unhappy with the pizza in London compared to Italy, shipped over a proper oven and opened the first Pizza Express restaurant on Wardour Street.

But you don’t have to travel to London for a proper pizza any more as there’s one (a newly refurbished one at that) right on the doorstep, just in the Metrocentre, Gateshead.

We took the pleasure of finding out the answer to the question many pizza diners ask: is Pizza Express just an upmarket Pizza Hut?

Food

Obviously the most important part of the dining experience is the food. We’d say to avoid the polenta chips if you’re not particular to extremely soft and cheesy chips. A quick warning to those not huge fans of cheese is to not get extra Parmesan when the pizza arrives as it can be an overpowering taste.

Apart from that, we’d give the food 4/5 and this is why:

Starter

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If you’re going to Pizza Express, you absolutely need to get the dough balls. They are to die for.

Reasonably sized and just the right texture, the dough balls fit perfectly with the rich butter placed delicately in the middle of them all. The butter itself is lovely too, even without the dough balls!

There’s enough in this starter for two people so you’re already off to a good start price and taste-wise.

Main

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Now for the eponymous character: the pizza.

There are different types of pizza available at the restaurant, including the Romana style. This is basically a thin crust pizza (meaning it’s bigger than the thick crust for the eagle-eyed among you) and there are different toppings you can choose within this type.

As a chicken-on-pizza lover, the Pollo ad Astra had a lot of living up to do. And it did. It delivered on many levels.

The caramelised onions were a great flavour hit but the sweet bursting tomatoes were most definitely the highlight of the pizza, adding a pop of flavour to the pizza you wouldn’t find at Pizza Hut.

For any of the unusual diners who actually like pineapple on pizzas, you won’t be getting it at Pizza Express. This isn’t simply because they abide by the true unspoken moral code, but because they try to be as authentic to Italian cuisine as possible. And, if you were wondering, pineapple is not an Italian thing.

Dessert 

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I have tasted cheesecake from all over the world and while the best so far remains from New York’s Magnolia Bakery, Pizza Express’s vanilla cheesecake with gelato and the best monkey’s blood (strawberry sauce if you’re not familiar with the Geordie ice cream lingo) is definitely the best I’ve had in the UK.

Before that, it was from Nando’s, but the sauce really makes the world of difference. Don’t hesitate to get this after your pizza.

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However, if you’re more of a chocolate person, the chocolate fondant will be right up your street. With a warm rich centre and vanilla gelato on the top, you will be in heaven. Top marks for dessert.

Service

The staff at Pizza Express are very friendly, willing to do all they can to help out and ensure you enjoy your meal. We visited at around half four on a Friday when it was much quieter, though by the time we left after five o’clock, the restaurant was filling up. Despite this, service seemed quick for everyone and just as good as it was for us.

A 5/5 for service from us.

Decor

Pizza Express in the Metrocentre has just been refurbished and now sports a very modern and rustic look inside. All seats are comfortable and there are no awkward clunky wooden chairs that the last one to the table is lumbered with. It’s a pleasant environment and makes for a lovely surrounding for a meal with close friends or family.

Overall, we’d give Pizza Express Metrocentre 4.5/5 – authentic, friendly, delicious and much more than an upmarket Pizza Hut.